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April 4, 2010 6:54 PM   Subscribe

One Night in Afghanistan
THE PRESIDENT: at a time when too many American institutions have let us down, when too many institutions have put short-term gain in front of a commitment to duty and a commitment to what's right... all of you want to build -- and that is something essential about America. [Al Qaeda and the violent extremists have] got no respect for human life. You see dignity in every human being. That's part of what we value as Americans. They want to drive races and regions and religions apart. You want to bring people together and see the world move forward together.

Shields & Brooks on Obama's surprise visit to Afghanistan
JIM LEHRER: That was a good speech, wasn't it, David?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, it was just really tremendously good.

And -- and -- but the idea that you can talk Karzai into being what we hope him to be is just not going to happen. So, we better have some work-arounds.

JIM LEHRER: Work-arounds?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, yes. I mean, the -- it was interesting that the president was there unexpected, unannounced, so that Karzai could not get the -- the political pluses of having ceremonial photo opportunities or anything.

He was in and out. He gave him the -- he gave him the stern Dutch uncle lecture. And that was -- that was the purpose of the visit, other than the troops, as David pointed out.

And, you know, we're seeing, with General Jones on the show last night with you, and from other reports, without a functioning, honest, responsive government on the ground, all the military efforts in the world, on the part of the Afghans, all the military efforts in the world and sacrifice by Americans mean nothing, if there is nothing there to take its place.
Karzai Slams the West Again
Karzai accused the U.S. of interfering in his country's affairs and saying the Taliban insurgency would become a legitimate resistance movement if the meddling doesn't stop.

U.S. Aims to Ease India-Pakistan Tension
President Barack Obama issued a secret directive to intensify American diplomacy aimed at easing tensions between India and Pakistan, asserting that without détente between the two rivals the administration's efforts to win Pakistani cooperation in Afghanistan would suffer.

A Victory for Obama
From an unlikely quarter—Pakistan.

U.S.-Yemeni Ties Expand in Fight Against Al-Qaida
In a series of reports from Yemen, Margaret Warner talks to the country's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, about security threats, government corruption and relations with the U.S.
MARGARET WARNER: You had an interview Friday night with Al-Arabiya, Arabic satellite television, where you made a point of saying there are no U.S. troops here in Yemen. Why? Why was that important to say?

ALI ABDULLAH SALEH (through translator): This is normal, because there are no U.S. troops on Yemeni territories, neither offshore or onshore. There are some elements who are going -- making training for Yemeni personnel.

I wanted to confirm to the world, to the Yemeni people that there was no U.S. troops. At the same time, we have no agreement, we have no treaty with the U.S. on the presence of U.S. troops in Yemen.

MARGARET WARNER: What would be the consequence if the Yemeni people thought there were U.S. troops either here or on the way?

ALI ABDULLAH SALEH (through translator): Actually, there's no reason that U.S. troops be in Yemen. And we don't have any intentions here in Yemen -- and we believe the same with the U.S. They don't have any intention to have their troops here in Yemen, because there is no justification for their presence here in Yemen.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, some of these military strikes that you have been able to target at al-Qaida hideouts, militant figures, have those been all Yemeni airstrikes, or have there also been American airstrikes?

ALI ABDULLAH SALEH (through translator): There is a cooperation in the field of information exchange. These strikes are almost -- most of them are Yemeni.

MARGARET WARNER: So, most of the airstrikes, but not all of them, have been done by Yemeni forces?

ALI ABDULLAH SALEH (through translator): I would say, most of the strikes are Yemeni, because all what I'm aware of is the Yemeni strikes that we launched.
U.S. Linked to Airstrike on Terror Target in Yemen
Jeffrey Brown talks to Margaret Warner about her reporting trip to Yemen and security concerns from off-shoots of al-Qaida taking root in the country.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, Jeff, I have been able to confirm, really at the highest levels of the U.S. and Yemeni governments, that one particular airstrike in December in Abyan Province in southern Yemen in which civilians were killed was, in fact, the work of the U.S.

Now, the Yemen government has said consistently the opposite... The U.S. administration, at the same time, of course, doesn't want it to be known that U.S. planes were used or U.S. assets were used in raids like this. But it is -- I think it's -- I know for a fact that it is the case.

JEFFREY BROWN: This is clearly a very sensitive subject there in Yemen and here in Washington, as you say. Tell -- why? What are the stakes? What's going on?

MARGARET WARNER: Well, Jeff, in my reporting in Yemen, what became clear is that the bargain the U.S. has made with the Yemenis to fight al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the sort of new offshoot, or newly revived offshoot of al-Qaida, the bargain is, the Yemenis need the U.S. help, but it can't have a U.S. face.
Marjeh One Month On
posted by kliuless (36 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
And we're not due to even begin withdrawing from Afghanistan until July 2011, and calls for an earlier withdraw date have been rejected. Which means it will be a total of at least ten years there, and to my mind there's no clear evidence at all that we will leave that country any better off overall than when we invaded. What a waste.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 7:05 PM on April 4, 2010 [3 favorites]



-- -- --
And, you know, we're seeing, with General Westmoreland on the show last night with you, and from other reports, without a functioning, honest, responsive government on the ground, all the military efforts in the world, on the part of the Vietnamese, all the military efforts in the world and sacrifice by Americans mean nothing, if there is nothing there to take its place.

-- -- --
Diem accused the U.S. of interfering in his country's affairs and saying the Vietcong insurgency would become a legitimate resistance movement if the meddling doesn't stop.

-- -- --
Actually, there's no reason that U.S. troops be in Cambodia. And we don't have any intentions here in Cambodia -- and we believe the same with the U.S. They don't have any intention to have their troops here in Cambodia, because there is no justification for their presence here in Cambodia.

Q: Now, some of these military strikes that you have been able to target at Vietcong hideouts, militant figures, have those been all Cambodian airstrikes, or have there also been American airstrikes?


posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 7:06 PM on April 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


[Al Qaeda and the violent extremists have] got no respect for human life. You see dignity in every human being. That's part of what we value as Americans.
We like to show how much we value human life by blowing people up drone attacks and shooting them up at checkpoints. We're sure you afghans appreciate all this love and respect and dignity. No need to thank us!
posted by delmoi at 7:22 PM on April 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


> We like to show how much we value human life by blowing people up [through] drone attacks and shooting them up at checkpoints.

The dones are to show what great technology our political and economic systems can provide if they just appear thankful enough. The checkpoints illustrate that even our bureaucracy can be effective as a combat system. Hoo-rah!
posted by Doug Stewart at 7:30 PM on April 4, 2010


The drones and the idea of drones scare the heck of out of me. There was a story about them on Slashdot a few weeks back and, as near as I saw, NO ONE thought it was possible that one good turn would lead to another. Is it really so incomprehensible that some other power, less enamored of the United States, figure out a way to let their military play the same video game in U.S. skies?
posted by tcv at 8:06 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]




JIM LEHRER: That was a good speech, wasn't it, David?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, it was just really tremendously good. Like Baseball, Apple Pie, Chevrolet.

JIM LEHRER: Baseball, Apple Pie, Chevrolet?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, yes. I mean, Mantle and Joltin' Joe, Mom's...home made from scratch, and of course the '67 Camaro with a 350ci
posted by larry_darrell at 8:13 PM on April 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Politics of Culture from KCRW had a really good episode on Drone warfare. Its really fascinating stuff how can we balance the psychological distance from our actions that push button war gives with the reality that if it didn't exist we would be killing many more people.
posted by Rubbstone at 8:16 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I still haven't figured out what the Afghanistan thing is really about: the pipeline? demonstrating Persistence? not looking "weak" in advance of the 2012 elections? shoring up Pakistan?

It can't just be the titanic importance of blowing up the monkey bars and target ranges used by wanna-be AQ guys.

We probably should have just gone with the option Biden pushed: occasional assassination, while also removing our troops.
posted by darth_tedious at 8:19 PM on April 4, 2010


Is it really so incomprehensible that some other power, less enamored of the United States, figure out a way to let their military play the same video game in U.S. skies?

Nah. They'd need a huge manufacturing base, for one thing.
posted by telstar at 8:27 PM on April 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I still haven't figured out what the Afghanistan thing is really about: the pipeline? demonstrating Persistence? not looking "weak" in advance of the 2012 elections? shoring up Pakistan?

That all sounds right.

And then there's the Guinness-World-Record-setting Easter-basket-full-of-political-capital that is Osama Bin Laden.
posted by sallybrown at 8:52 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Marjeh One Month On

-Conquering Marjeh was, from the very start, less about altering the tactical reality on the ground and more about shaping U.S. public opinion about the war effort in Afghanistan:
Military officials in Afghanistan hope a large and loud victory in Marja will convince the American public that they deserve more time to demonstrate that extra troops and new tactics can yield better results on the battlefield. Although Obama has set a date to begin a pullout, he has not said how quickly the troops will leave. Success in southern Afghanistan would almost certainly mean a slower drawdown.
-Analysis of the WaPo report by Gareth Porter

-Interview w/ Gareth Porter by The Real News

-The Young Turks on the Marjeh offensive
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:02 PM on April 4, 2010


The context for Karzai's comments on how 'Taliban would be legitimate if Western meddling does not stop' is pretty interesting. They were part of a tirade he laid at members of the Afghan parliament for refusing to support his new electoral law, and the comments were not meant to be public (unless the leak was intentional?).

In addition to the WSJ story, the New York Times has its own.
posted by Anything at 9:06 PM on April 4, 2010


Nah. They'd need a huge manufacturing base, for one thing.

Yes, and the captains of industry have spent the past forty years moving the world's manufacturing base from rich stable democracies to the sorts of poor corrupt oligarchies with which one can come to an understanding when it comes to pesky labor and environmental regulations. These latter are frequently not models of institutional stability.
posted by enn at 9:07 PM on April 4, 2010


I still haven't figured out what the Afghanistan thing is really about: the pipeline? demonstrating Persistence? not looking "weak" in advance of the 2012 elections? shoring up Pakistan?

Opium. Boatloads of opium. It's been like Christmas for the the CIA every day for the past 9 years.
posted by formless at 9:07 PM on April 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


I hadn't heard the term "Dutch uncle lecture" before, but it's fascinating that Mark Shields seems to know that it's a well-known part of the vernacular. If Wikipedia is to be believed, its height of prominence was probably sometime during the administration of Martin Van Buren.
posted by blucevalo at 9:52 PM on April 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Mark Shields seems to know think
posted by blucevalo at 9:53 PM on April 4, 2010


Opium. Boatloads of opium. It's been like Christmas for the the CIA every day for the past 9 years.

I don't mean to oppugn this analysis, but do you have a source to back it up?
posted by viborg at 10:01 PM on April 4, 2010


I'm a big fan of President Obama, but I'm not any more impressed by his surprise visit to Afghanistan than I was by President Bush's surprise visits to Afghanistan or Iraq. After nine years it'd be nice if we'd made it secure enough you could make a trip in the daytime.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:15 PM on April 4, 2010 [4 favorites]




blucevalo, it's not common, but it's certainly something that's still in use as a Google Books search shows. I would say that as an idiom its decline has been pretty recent, as part of a general disappearance of subtly racist terms (like "welsh", "Indian giver", and so on).
posted by dhartung at 10:20 PM on April 4, 2010


-[Al Qaeda and the violent extremists have] got no respect for human life. You see dignity in every human being.

-Gen. McChrystal: We've Shot 'An Amazing Number Of People' Who Were Not Threats

-The US-led forces have admitted in an Easter press release that Special Forces troops were indeed responsible for the death of 5 civilians last month, including 2 pregnant women.

Evidence of a cover-up include reports of digging bullets out of the walls as well as digging bullets out of the corpses and washing the wounds with alcohol.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:00 PM on April 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


You can't hunt a man using an army. Military efforts have exceedingly little to do with finding Osama bin Laden. Detective/spy work does.

The USA does not want its troops to come home. So much production capacity in the US is tied up in military spending that stopping the war machine will kill the economy. And you really dont want a bunch of war-traumatized soldiers coming home to full unemployment and no social support.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:04 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


A lot of comments by a lot of people whose only source of info is (probably) the internet.

Reading words does not a subject matter expert make. No matter how many words you read.
posted by Dagobert at 2:26 AM on April 5, 2010


Just a few observations : - Marja might qualify as the world's heroin capital.
Afghanistan's civil war is set to continue with or without the US.
Afghanistan cannot be discussed without Pakistan; The End Game; Ahmed Rashid pdf
Meanwhile Joseph Lieberman, acknowledges that the US has a "growing presence" in Yemen which included special operations, Green Beret special forces and intelligence.
I highly encourage watching the following video (its 45min)
War on terror' through Muslim eyes.
which features articulate debate from Soumaya Ghannoushi + Hassan Nafaa. from the blurb: -
We will analyse whether the US' so-called 'war on terror' - with its deadly tactics and support for corrupt rulers - serves only to alienate Muslims, driving them into the arms of extremist groups.
We will ask if the US can reverse the tide of military intervention in the region and instead try to reach political solutions that involve all political parties, including repressed Islamic parties.
We will also discuss whether the Arab world has an answer to the al-Qaeda challenge

posted by adamvasco at 2:39 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


sorry, just can't stop...
-- --- --
Just a few observations : - Laos might qualify as the world's heroin capital.
Vietnam's civil war is set to continue with or without the US.
Vietnam cannot be discussed without China;
Meanwhile the US has a "growing presence" in Cambodia which included special operations, Green Beret special forces and intelligence.
-- --- --


Opium. Boatloads of opium. It's been like Christmas for the the CIA every day for the past 9 years.

I don't mean to oppugn this analysis, but do you have a source to back it up?


Some context.

Keep in mind the Taliban shut down opium cultivation, as immoral.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 4:24 AM on April 5, 2010


Keep in mind the Taliban shut down opium cultivation, as immoral.

Oh, BS, they shut it down because they got direct cash payments from the west for drug interdiction rather than money going to the war/druglords who are their enemies. Now that they can use poppy production for their own benefit, its suddenly no longer "immoral" to grow it, go figure?
posted by Pollomacho at 5:51 AM on April 5, 2010




some questions...

Will the Taliban fight to the last man in Kandahar?
When American forces all arrive, they will encounter challenges larger than any other in Afghanistan. Taliban suicide bombings and assassinations have left this city virtually paralyzed by fear. The insurgents boldly walk the streets, visit shops and even press people into keeping guns and other supplies in their houses for them in preparation for urban warfare, residents say.

The government, corrupt and ineffective, lacks almost any popular support. Anyone connected to the government lives in fear of assassination. Its few officials sit barricaded behind high blast walls. Services are scant. Security, people say, is at its worst since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001.
What's Obama's Af-Pak goal? -- "long-term stability means making India happier than Pakistan, because the latter needs a disconnected Afghanistan to feel secure, while the former needs the exact opposite"

Afghanistan 'will continue to tempt external actors to play out geopolitical games' -- "Do [mefi] readers think there's any chance of Afghanistan becoming a sustainable state? Is the U.S. expediting or retarding that process?"
posted by kliuless at 6:54 AM on April 5, 2010


If opium farming really was shut down because of US largesse, how come the cash doesn't go as far now?

Because you can make more money off of opium than you can off of pay-offs. The Taliban didn't control the poppy fields, the warlords (their enemies) did. They wanted to shut down production a) because it funded their enemies and b) because they could get paid to do so - a win-win for the Taliban. Now they are trying to get cash any way they can, such as opening the areas they control to opium production and transport in exchange for pay-offs by the producers and traffickers.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:15 AM on April 5, 2010


Do [mefi] readers think there's any chance of Afghanistan becoming a sustainable state?

I think the best possible outcome is for Afghanistan to become another Uzbekistan (Kazakhstan would be too much of a stretch). The worst case scenario is, well, pretty much more of the same.

Is the U.S. expediting or retarding that process?

Yes.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:18 AM on April 5, 2010


> Opium. Boatloads of opium. It's been like Christmas for the the CIA every day for the past 9 years.

Hmm. Opium has traditionally been a staple CIA crop, but I really wonder whether the US has enough control of the ground in Afghanistan to be harvesting much these days.
posted by darth_tedious at 7:56 AM on April 5, 2010


The USA does not want its troops to come home. So much production capacity in the US is tied up in military spending that stopping the war machine will kill the economy. And you really dont want a bunch of war-traumatized soldiers coming home to full unemployment and no social support.

Although there are certainly civilian support networks that are only hired in combat, the military branches are fully employed both during war and peace. When an Army unit is at home during peace, they're not doing nothing; they're training which is in and of itself is a full time job. Bringing home troops no way discharges them, and one could say that a muscular and sizable military is more use when it's not in action rather than when it is. As far as the Navy, wartime increases tempo, but we're going to be out there no matter what. Ships are made to be out at sea.

So, anyway, the only part of the economy bringing troops home would kill is Blackwater/Xe stuff (which despite everything, does not employ that many people. Additionally, those in the arms industry are affected by cycles of war and peace but at a much greater time span. Really, we could have the lion laying down with the lamb and until congress nixes their contracts, arms dealers would still be in business.

The point to all of this being is that fear of war-torn soldiers returning home to no jobs is not what keeps us across the world. There are many reasons (some good, some bad) but that's not one of them.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:34 AM on April 5, 2010


Do [mefi] readers think there's any chance of Afghanistan becoming a sustainable state?

No. Perhaps we should just spray some herbicide on the poppy, come home and stop trying to turn Afghanistan into a Western style "state". I just don't think it's meant to be, the British couldn't do it, the Soviets couldn't do it and we won't do it either.
posted by MikeMc at 3:50 PM on April 5, 2010


"Do [mefi] readers think there's any chance of Afghanistan becoming a sustainable state?"

Not self-sustainable, but it can, theoretically, become stable... or at least stable enough.

To me, it seems absolutely obvious that the US/NATO is facing these problems in trying to pacify the most resistant parts of Afghanistan. Of course there will be civilian casualties. It's not intentional, but given the

It's kind of like the difficulties, as described, in rebuilding Marjeh.

They've been there for about a month now, and the Taliban are killing and intimidating people into not helping the Americans, with real problems in some parts of town. Despite this, however, "in central Marja, where the work projects have had more success, about 2,000 Afghan men are employed by programs financed by the First Battalion, Sixth Marines".

Ultimately, all the arguments about civilian deaths, US military deaths, or how hard it will be to weed out those who are part of the resistance are only arguments as to why we should've never occupied Afghanistan with troops in the first place. They are *not* very convincing arguments that the Taliban can't be uprooted in the area.

Counterinsurgency tactics aren't all about buying friends. They're also about identifying, compromising, and rooting out those who are aggressively supporting the active opposition, while separating them from the rest of the population. We're not necessarily talking about a lot of Taliban here. The problem is, a couple of dozen hardened people working in secret is more than enough to intimidate and kill the locals to get them to do what you want. And yet, if you capture a few, you can oftentimes unearth an entire network.

What you can't expect, though, is to do all the groundwork to completely unearth such a network in just a month. It takes time to build up an idea of who is going after you and who their associates are. You can't expect US/NATO casualties not to rise, when you have more troops deployed in forward positions, and when taking and holding territory like Marja is just a precursor to the bigger target of Kandahar.

At the same time, the Taliban / local Afghani resistance are facing serious problems right now. Their support from Pakistan is being squeezed out. Their leadership is being killed off and disrupted. Their finances are being heavily impacted. A lot of these changes are somewhat new, so it's no wonder that the Taliban are still pretty effective, but these gains will presumably start to pay real dividends for the coalition as the noose gets tighter.

While there's little doubt that many insurgents fled Marjeh to Kandahar, it's entirely possible that this was part of the US strategy... because great pains are being made to surround and isolate Kandahar, while improving security outside the ring. The US has 10,000 additional troops due to arrive in June, at which point presumably, the US will do its best to force the Taliban to stand their ground and fight.

Meanwhile, strategists on the staff of Army Gen. McChrystal are saying that they believe the Taliban is already running low on money, ammunition and confidence.

I still think the US should've never sent ground troops into Afghanistan. It's not only incredibly wasteful and destructive... it's obviously strategically unwise. That said, we're already there, huge amounts have already been spent, and abandoning Afghanistan to another ten years of civil war and a tyrrany of a religious extremist government -- even one that kills drug smugglers and growers -- is hardly a good solution either.

This is hardly a Vietnam situation, because the simple fact is, there is no great leader seeking national independence. Most Afghani people do not want the Taliban running their country, especially those who are most educated and westernized. The Taliban's major sources of influence are money, fear, and fundamentalism. Arguably, they're being attacked on all these fronts.

The simple fact is, the surge is not going to be around forever. Troop levels won't be this high again, and allies are starting to balk. That's why the US is setting the stage for a decisive battle, and taking risks with their troops to pacify sections of Afghanistan... they have no other choice.

Either it will work, or it won't. If it does, millions of Afghanis, both now and in the future, will have more opportunity to live peacefully and to actually start connecting to the modern world. Regardless of your personal feelings on this matter, though, it seems particularly unwise to bet against it working.
posted by markkraft at 6:22 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]




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